David Pelfrey

Hamu Shiru, Hamu Sharu, (?-1932), Yezidi Tribal Shaikh, Jabal Sinjar,Iraq (formerly Ottoman Empire). Hamu Shiru was instrumental in transforming one of the Yezidi social classes, the Fakirs, into a tribal entity with himself as shaikh.

Rise of the Faquara Tribe

Prior to the 1890s, Hamu Shiru was the head of an order of Yezidi ascetics known as fakirs. The fakirs, traditionally third and lowest among the three Yezidi religious classes (the other two being Shaykhs and qawwals), benefited from being relatively open to membership by any Yezidi believer. The order, which as the Arabic name implies, came to be organized along lines similar to Muslim Sufi mendicants. However, in the aftermath of the Vebi Pasha anti-Yezidi campaign of 1892, the numbers of Yezidi fakirs swelled. The leader of the order, Hamu Shiru, reconstituted the Fakirs as bona fide Yezidi tribe calling themselves the Faquara with himself as Mir. The resulting tribe became known as the Faquara and came to dominate the northern slope of Jabal Sinjar by the close of the nineteenth-century.

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Right: Yezidi kinship group, Mt. Sinjar, circa 1920. Source: Post-Card by Sarrafian brothers of Beirut.

The Izlamization Policies of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II

The two most powerful Kurdish tribes in the province of Mosul prior to the 1892 offensive against the Yezidi were the Musqura and Mihirkan. While these tribes were ethnically cohesive, religiously they were not. Both the Musqura and Mihirkan tribes were comprised of Yezidi and Sunni adherents. For this reason, the Ottoman government supported the power of the Musqura chiefs by appointing them to the so-called Paramountcy of Sinjar; however, the Pan-Islamization policies of Abdulhamid weakened the multi-sect Kurdish tribes as they fell victim to sectarian strife.
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The Ottoman Campaign of 1892 and Hamu Shiru's Seizure of the Paramountcy of Sinjar

As the Musquara chiefs in particular weakened, Hamu Shiru, who had by the 1890s established himself as chief adviser to the Paramountcy of Sinjar seized the office for himself upon the death of the last ''Musquara'' Paramount Chief. Hamu Shiru’s prestige was enhanced by his successful defense of the Jabal Sinjar against an incursion by Omer Vebi Pasha in 1892. In the process the ''Faquara''' tribe captured a significant train of Ottoman arms, enough to render Jabal Sinjar a considerable redoubt in military terms during the generation leading up to the outbreak of the First World War.

Consolidation of Power and Relations with Other Religious Sects, 1892 to 1918

As the Faquara Shaykh, Hamu Shiru further consolidated his control of Jabal Sinjar by accepting Yezidi refugees from the Ottoman Islamization policies regardless of clan or lineage affiliation. As other religious minorities become subject to Ottoman persecution, Hamu Shiru accepted these new refugees, i.e., Christians from the Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean, and Jacobite faiths, under Faquara protection.

By the early 1900s, Hamu Shiru consolidated his control, particularly over the northern sector of the Sinjar range, as historian Nelida Fuccaro describes below:

Theoretically all members of this tribal community belonged to the priestly order of faqirs, to which entry was automatic by birth but which also admitted disciples by initiation. However by the Faqir Hamu Shiru created a new notion of tribal cohesion which centered upon the attributes of ‘faqirdom’ but was heavily reliant on existing tribal solidarities. In the 1930s a large part of the Fuqara’ were still claiming to be linked to the Sharqiyyan tribe, a section of the Milli tribal confederation which had settled in Sinjar in the second half of the 19th-century. Furthermore the leading section of the tribe, the Mala Shiru, claimed to have originated from the Dinadiyya tribe of Shaykhan some of whose sections were already settled in Sinjar in the late 18th-century. In this connection during the period of the [British] mandate Hamu Shiru consistently claimed to be a Dinadi chief. The personal prestige of the first nucleus of Fakirs who gathered around Hamu Shiru was undoubtedly strengthened by a careful policy of matrimonial alliances which represented one of the kernels of Hamu’s policy on the mountain at least since the early 1900s. Marriages were arranged between Hamu’s followers and members of other Sinjari groups. Membership in the tribe was also extended to those Yazidis who did not belong to the Faqir class by birth, so that the size of the group increased dramatically in a couple of decades. By 1932 the Fuqara’ tribe in Sinjar consisted of 240 families divided into six factions.1

The First World War, End of Ottoman Rule, and Relations with Mandatory Powers, 1918-1923

Ottoman Turkish Music from 17th century

References:

  • Nelida Fuccaro, The Other Kurds: Yazidis in Colonial Iraq, (New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1999)
  • Edip Gölbasi, The Yezidis and the Ottoman State: Modern power, military conscription, and conversion policies, 1830-1909 (Master’s Thesis: Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History, 2008)
  • Nelida Fuccaro, ‘A 17th-century Travel Account on the Yezidis: Implications for Socio-Religious History,’ Annali dell’Instituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli 53, no. 3 (1993)
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